Monthly Archives: March 2019

Engaging with Archives Using “Wayne’s Famous Pooter Dip”

[This blog post was written by Samantha Crisp, Director of the Outer Banks History Center.]

Have you ever thought about your community’s food history? What about your ancestors’ relationships to food—what did they eat? Why did they eat it? How did they get it?

Public interest in historical foodways has really taken off in the past decade, particularly relating to vintage recipes. In 2014, Duke University’s Rubenstein Library launched the Rubenstein Library Test Kitchen, a blog featuring historical recipes from the Rubenstein’s collections recreated by archivists. It was immediately popular among history lovers and foodies alike. Even popular web content producers like Buzzfeed and its subsidiary, Tasty, have made forays into experimenting with historical food, preparing recipes for 350-year-old ice cream and oyster and chicken pie, and even curating a list of “truly upsetting” vintage recipes.

A recent collaboration between the Outer Banks History Center and the Dare County Arts Council prompted my own foray into “vintage” food. We worked with a local food author, Amy Gaw, to curate a juried art show based on historical recipes from the OBHC’s cookbook collection and recipes collected by Amy for her new book, Lost Restaurants of the Outer Banks with their Recipes. About 30 local artists were each given a recipe and instructed to use it as inspiration to create a piece of art in their preferred medium, culminating in an awards ceremony and reception in which we passed out tastings of each dish recreated by local cooks. The show was called The Art of the Recipe.

Each recipe was carefully selected based on its age, ties to the local community, ease of reproduction, and availability of ingredients, except for one. My earliest contribution to the list wasn’t meant to be a contribution at all, but rather a snapshot sent to Amy of a recipe I stumbled upon and simply thought was hilarious: Wayne’s Famous Pooter Dip. As the weeks went by and the list of candidates whittled down to our favorites, Wayne’s Pooter Dip never really left our minds, and we eventually decided that it had to be included in the show, and I would be the one to recreate it for the reception. It was kismet.

Recipe

Wayne’s Famous Pooter Dip appears in the Town of Nags Head’s 50th anniversary cookbook, Fifty Years and Still Cookin’, published in 2011. Unfortunately, despite a great deal of searching and asking around, I was unable to find out who Wayne was or what prompted him to contribute this recipe to the cookbook. While this recipe was less “historical” than most of the others in the show, its irreverent humor, conversational tone, and performative elements resonated with me in a way that the other recipes didn’t.

I started by gathering all the ingredients, including Colby Jack cheese (“no substitute”), Pace picante sauce, and two “your choice” beers, which in my case turned out to be two of my husband’s leftover Landshark Lagers. And, of course, “pooters,” or refried beans.

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After preheating your pan, Wayne first instructs you to “open up one of the beers and take at least one drink, two if the skillet is heating up slow.” Then, add sausage and chop as fine as possible. Wayne advises that “it takes a little work but it’s worth it in the end.”

Chop, chop, chop!

Next, chop and add your onions, and take another swig of beer.

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Add the Pace picante sauce, rinse the can with water, and finish off beer number 1. Then, open beer number 2 and spread your “pooters” in a Pyrex dish, making sure that you “try to be neat with the pooters as folks tend to judge you harshly if they are smeared all over the baking dish.” I’ll take Wayne’s word for it.

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At this point, as can often happen with historical recipes, Wayne and I had a breakdown in communication. He states that the sausage mixture should simmer “for at least 30 minutes. Longer is better but 2 hours is too much.” I was suddenly reminded of my mother’s and grandmother’s favorite recipes, which frequently include less-than-helpful descriptors such as “a moderate oven” or “make a sauce” or “bake until it looks done.” One of the most enjoyable and sometimes frustrating aspects of recreating old recipes is attempting to decipher the cook’s bad handwriting, odd turns of phrase, or forgotten ingredients, all of which likely result from having to write down a recipe for the first time that one has known by heart for decades. I settled on an hour. I felt like Wayne would appreciate a nice, round number.

While the pooter dip was simmering, I tried to imagine what Wayne must be like. I know nothing about him other than what I can glean from this recipe. He was probably a lover of beer and simple, cheap food to enjoy with it. I suspect he was the class clown and preferred to make his home in Nags Head due to the laid-back, relaxing atmosphere on the beach. Perhaps he was a surfer. I couldn’t help but picture him standing at his stove in his tiny beach box home, wearing Rainbow sandals and an unbuttoned Hawaiian shirt, casually stirring pooter dip and sipping beer while keeping an eye on the condition of the waves through his kitchen window. I wondered how Wayne’s dip became “famous.” I wondered how he’d feel knowing that his name will be immortalized in art, or that his recipe will be preserved in the archival record in perpetuity. Perhaps he anticipated this, and the “famous” descriptor portended this very moment.

After simmering for an hour and “having beer at will,” I pulled the steaming pan off the stove and “gingerly” spread a generous amount of cheese on top. Wayne recommends melting the cheese in an oven “at low heat,” another vague descriptor that I interpreted to mean 325°. Per Wayne, “don’t burn it.” Fifteen minutes later, a pan full of spicy, cheesy pooter dip was cooling on my kitchen counter.

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At the reception, Wayne’s Famous Pooter Dip was sampled by young and old alike, and I heard numerous attendees joke about it being the funniest recipe they’d ever read. Local photographer Jim Trotman’s entry, “A Pooter Tower of Power,” was even awarded an honorable mention. By the end of the night, our attendees had scarfed down almost two whole batches of the dip. Over 100 people attended our reception, and I think I overheard just about every one of them remark that it was one of the most enjoyable shows they’d ever participated in, and how much they loved the concept. I left that evening knowing I had succeeded in sharing my love of Wayne and his cheeky pooter dip recipe with the world.

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Archivists know that archives change lives. We see it every day in our reading rooms, and share stories about our observations with each other. But it’s not every day that an entire room full of people can have their lives changed together by engaging with archives in a way they’d never imagined before. Archives are essential, inspirational, and powerful, but they can also be quirky, unpredictable, and fun. Projects like The Art of the Recipe encourage folks from all walks of life to come together and seek out the joy in archives, somewhere at the intersection of art, history, and pooter dip.

TranscribeNC is Now Live!

TranscribeNC, a transcription project hosted by the State Archives featuring 5 collections, is now live! We are recruiting volunteers to spend a little time helping to transcribe its first project — county draft board records of men who were drafted or enlisted during World War I.

“This project is critical to telling North Carolina’s story,” says Randon McCrea, digital archivist for online programming, who is heading this initiative, along with archivist Anna Peitzman. “Each of these archival collections—WWI draft lists and travel diaries—personalize the human experience and keep this state’s legacy alive. When complete, the WWI information will be of importance to veterans, their families, and communities.”

Other transcription projects will also be made available. “Transcription volunteers of all skill levels will most definitely find materials of interest in one or all of these collections while helping to build incredibly valuable indexes and the ability for all to more readily access information about North Carolina records,” says Anna Peitzman.

If you would like to volunteer your time and talents, visit TranscribeNC on FromThePage or find more information at the State Archives; there you will find instructions and tips for transcription, a guide, and instructional video. Or send a message to archives.webedit@ncdcr.gov for more information. Take this opportunity to add to the state’s knowledge.

Lillian Exum Clement Stafford: Worthy of “She Changed the World: North Carolina Women Breaking Barriers”–– A Program of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources

[This blog post was written by Fran Tracy-Walls, Private Manuscripts Archivist, Private Collections of the Special Collections Section of the State Archives of North Carolina.]

Introduction

Exum with a group of other legislators, on grounds of the State Capitol, Raleigh, N.C., early 1921. (Photo from PC.2084_Phots_B5_F1_A)

This blog is based, with some modifications, on one published in March of 2018 as part of Women’s History Month and to announce the availability in the State Archives of the Lillian Exum Clement Stafford Papers (PC.2084). She remains worthy of additional highlighting as North Carolina begins a campaign to recognize women breaking barriers and to celebrate the upcoming 100th anniversary, 2020, of women’s suffrage. A member of the North Carolina Bar and a practicing attorney, L. Exum Clement (as she signed her official portrait) chose to run for the state legislature even before women gained the vote, through ratification of the 19th Amendment in August of 1919.

As the story goes and newspaper articles show, the Buncombe County Democratic party, in a remarkable show of support, had placed Exum’s name on the ballot for the June primary. Such gumption was characteristic of L. Exum Clement (hereafter referred to as Exum).  She went on to beat two male contenders, winning in the November election to become the first woman lawmaker in her own state and in the entire South.  Exum’s accomplishments did not stop there, and she continued to show exceptional drive and courage as a freshman legislator. Exum’s papers in the State Archives contain a remarkable letter of January 11, 1920, from her father who wrote these telling words, “I was glad to see in the papers that you were appointed on an important committee. Your friends here are talking of running you for Congress in the next election.”

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The Rumley Family Papers: A New Collection Featuring Resources for Researchers Seeking Enslaved Ancestors

[This blog post was written by Elizabeth Crowder, contract archivist with Private Collections of the Special Collections Branch. This position is overseen by Fran Tracy-Walls and is supported by funds bequeathed to the North Carolina Genealogical Society by the estate of the late Frances Holloway Wynne.]

Private manuscript collections, part of the State Archives’ Special Collections Section, can provide useful source material for researchers seeking information about enslaved ancestors. In many cases, these collections organize records concerning slaves and freedmen into dedicated series. The accompanying finding aids often identify those slaves who can be tentatively traced in federal census records dating from 1870 and later. Such is the case with the Rumley Family Papers (PC.1969). This collection contains correspondence, bills of sale, promissory notes, mortgages, receipts, and a warrant concerning enslaved and free African Americans.

Among these documents is an 1837 bill of sale for William, an approximately fifty-year-old slave whom Gibbons Bell (1807–1875) sold to his brother-in-law William Jones (1807–1850) in Carteret County, N.C. In attempting to find more information about the slave named William, I worked from three assumptions: that he was born around 1787 and lived at least until 1860, that he called himself either William Bell or William Jones after emancipation and the Civil War, and that he settled in Carteret County or an adjacent county once he was free. William might well have died earlier, used an entirely different name, and/or moved elsewhere. However, I needed a starting point for my search.

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